Blog Spiritual Disciplines

What are you giving up? “Giving up” and Giving More.

The conversation went something like this: “I am giving up chocolate. What are you giving up? I am going to give up chocolate too. What about you Cindy, what are you going to give up? Well, I don’t really go to church or anything, but I think I will give up chocolate as well.” This was the conversation around this time of year, before Lent, at the lunch table during my grade school years. Lent was upon us and it was a time to “give up” something. Chocolate was that one thing, which would take considerable will power and sacrifice to go without for forty days (little did we know that the forty days did not include Sundays!).
There is still conversation and indecision right now about what to “give up.”  It can be difficult to decide! Is it going to be sweets, diet coke, espn, beer, or facebook? Possibly, it is going to be gossip, speeding, shopping on the Internet, pinterest or football (that one is easy). What will require some will power or sacrifice to do without?

Recovering what was lost

So, why give up something anyway? Often there are these pesky things, that are not necessarily “bad,” but they just seem to creep in and steal something from us. We want to recover what was lost. We want to stop indulging, or turning so quickly to sweets. We find we are wasting our time on social media, watching sports, or on the Internet.  We find we are bitter or jealous after scrolling through the facebook news feed. There are many different reasons for giving up something.
I hope that when I “fast” from whatever it is, that I am retrieving what is being lost– intimacy with people and, most of all, Christ. It reminds me of my need for something better, my need for Christ. I become very aware of my frailty and how easily I depend and rely on lesser things to satisfy me. The sacrifice seems small, but even so, it still feels difficult to live without– yet His strength is what helps me to endure.

Replacing with something else

There is also the opportunity to not just “give up” something, but  actually use the time to “give more.”  An important aspect is using this sacrifice to give our attention to Christ– who He is, and what He has done for us. This time gives greater awareness of my own sin, and my need for His grace and mercy. Absence can draw us towards Him–giving deeper intimacy. Developing greater will power takes a back seat.

Giving behind the wheel

Something that I have found helpful from time to time, which is becoming more of a habit, is turning off all noise in the car when I am by myself.  The time becomes a haven for quietness and prayer.  Here, as I drive, I am able to pray for the needs of family and friends. I can touch friends and people I don’t even know, on the other side of the world. As I wait at the light, I have the ability to intercede for the many devastating issues that are going on around the world.  As I take my kids to school, I can pray with them for their day, teachers and friends. I can also give thanks and sing praises as loud as I want.  All of this is from behind the wheel of my car. I am giving up music, and talking on the phone, but I am able to give something much more. You may find time to give like this while waiting for the bus, in the carpool line or on a long commute.

Giving up to Give more

Consider this: If you are going to “give up” something, how can you use it to give more? How can you use the time to give your attention to Christ? Possibly, giving up facebook or social media is what you need to do.  However, maybe instead, limit your time and give a large portion of the time for good–blessing, instead of cursing, sending an encouraging message to someone. From the money you are saving from fasting lattes or diet-coke, consider whom can you give that money to.  The extra time you are making from doing without certain programs or shopping on the internet, how can you give that time for good?
Giving up is a great time to give more. God can use the little sacrifice and multiply it for something more. Who knew that even giving up chocolate could actually be more than a battle of will power and actually be used to give something much greater– intimacy with others and God?